Current Issue
December, 2017
Volume 43, Number 4
17 July 2017
J.D. Conor Mauro

An Iraqi carries away garbage from his house after his return to his hometown, the predominantly Christian Iraqi village of Qaraqosh, some 20 miles east of Mosul. (photo: Adel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

The uncertain fate of Iraq’s largest Christian city (Der Spiegel) Before ISIS invaded, Qaraqosh was home to Iraq’s largest Christian community. Now liberated after three years of occupation, little remains and former residents are considering whether it is worth rebuilding in a country with an unclear future…

U.S.C.C.B. leaders say armed attacks near Jerusalem holy sites ‘a desecration’ (CNS) The president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference and two committee chairmen condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the fatal shooting of two Israeli police officers July 14 in Jerusalem’s Old City near some of the world’s holiest sites. “It is a particular desecration to carry out armed attacks in and around sites holy to Muslims and Jews in a city that is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims,” they said in a statement…

Syria takes more oil fields from ISIS (AINA) The Syrian army, backed by heavy Russian air strikes, seized a string of oil wells in southwest province of Raqqa on Saturday, as retreating ISIS militants battle to defend their remaining territory in the country…

Threat of attacks forces Egyptian churches to shut down activities (AsiaNews) Copts have suspended some of their activities — including pilgrimages, summer camps and conferences — for security reasons, fearing new attacks by Islamist extremist groups. The measure, which will remain in force for the months of July and August, was issued following alerts by the Cairo authorities…

Clash between self-proclaimed “Christian militias” operating in the Nineveh Plain (Fides) Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) have blamed the so-called “Babylonian Brigades” for having broken into one of their posts to seize military supplies and, above all, to release six of their militiamen, previously arrested on charges of looting private houses and Christian churches, including the Mar Behnam monastery…

Tags: Syria Iraq Egypt Jerusalem

14 July 2017
Greg Kandra

David Safaryan displays one of his paintings from art class. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

In the June 2017 edition of ONE, Gayane Abrahamyan writes about the exceptional work being done by Caritas in Armenia, with CNEWA’s support, to bring light to the darkness, and help those most in need — especially the elderly and the young:

In one of the large, bright rooms, children stand behind easels, refining pencil sketches and proudly presenting their masterpieces.

The teacher, Vanush Safaryan, is a member of the Painters’ Union of Armenia and a former director of an art school in Artashat. He teaches children not only the craft of drawing and painting, but also the history and appreciation of art more generally.

“Art will save the country,” he says of a country that savors its rich art and architectural heritage. “Let them love the art. Twenty of the children have already chosen this path, so it is already a victory,” he adds.

“We have very bright children; they need to be given freedom and they will reveal themselves.”

The center’s smallest pupil is a 9-year-old named David. David has drawn a picture of construction site, with a worker seated inside a crane and a still-unfinished building nearby.

David lives with his parents and a younger sister in a rented apartment in poor condition. The center offers him an escape, and a sense of hope.

“After school we come here,” he says. “We have dinner, then we play games, draw, do our homework. It is very good.” He stops talking so he can focus on bringing his sketched construction site to life.

Read more in ‘This Is the Only Light’ in the June 2017 edition of ONE.

Tags: Children Armenia Caritas

14 July 2017
Greg Kandra

Israeli forces take additional security measures after police killed three men who opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City on 14 July. (photo: Mahmoud Ibrahem/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Attack near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount (The Jerusalem Post) Three terrorists opened fire on a group of policemen near Lions’ Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday morning, killing two Israeli police officers and injuring two more before the attackers were killed by police. The slain officers are Hail Stawi, 30, from Maghar and Kamil Shanan, 22, from Hurfeish both in northern Israel. Officer Shanan was the son of former Israeli Druze Knesset member Shakib Shanan…

Son of Copt killed in Egypt plans to donate funds to build a mosque and church (Fides) Young Coptic Michael Atef Munir, son of one of the victims of the massacre of the Coptic pilgrims killed on 26 May in a jihadist ambush, announced he wants to donate the money that the Egyptian government set aside for the relatives of the victims of terrorism to a mosque and a church in the province of Minya…

Syrians make a new life in Mexico (The Guardian) Hassan is one of 10 young Syrians in Mexico thanks to Project Habesha — a small not-for-profit organization arranging university scholarships for youngsters whose education has been disrupted by the war…

Christian birth rates falling in India (New Indian Express) Sustaining the upward growth rate of Muslim population in the state, the recent Vital statistics Report published by the Director of Panchayats is pointing at a steep climb in birth rate among the Muslim community. While Muslims, who constitute a quarter of the population, have attained the birth rate almost equal to that of the majority Hindu community, the Christian community’s birth rate has fallen…

Tags: India Egypt Refugees Israel

13 July 2017
Dan Searby

Dan Searby meets some of the students at Mar Doumit in Lebanon. (photo: CNEWA)

Editor’s note: CNEWA donor Dan Searby had a chance to visit Lebanon this spring and see some of CNEWA’s work in the region. He sent us his impressions from the trip, below.

After a spring 2011 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I found myself especially drawn to the faith keeping Christians in the region, the “living stones” who are often overlooked as one tours the holy sites and historical landmarks. Msgr. Peter Vaccari, now rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York, subsequently introduced me to CNEWA and its work supporting the church and Christians in the Middle East.

Today CNEWA’s work is more vital than ever and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East has created what Pope Francis recently called “ecumenism of blood.” I wonder if there is a not a silver lining or even a divine design in what is taking place in the region, and that this can all become a force for Christian unity. I believe that CNEWA is uniquely positioned to play a leading role toward this great end.

The intervening years have deepened my relationship with CNEWA and last summer I returned to Israel and Palestine for a “Year of Mercy” pilgrimage led by Msgr. Vaccari. Beyond the rich spiritual experience, the journey included a fascinating briefing by CNEWA’s regional director in Jerusalem, Sami El-Yousef.

Before traveling to Israel, we had spent three days in Rome and on our first stop, at “St. Paul’s Outside the Walls,” we encountered a large group of Lebanese pilgrims. I was struck by their faith journey, and could not imagine the trials they had been through in their native land. I had always dreamed of visiting Lebanon, which is celebrated in the Bible for its beauty, snow-capped mountains, wine and especially Lebanon’s legendary cedars.

Largely through a CNEWA-facilitated correspondence with the Beirut regional director, Michel Constantin, this year I was able to plan out a trip to Lebanon in April, and a visit to Mar Doumit, a convent-run school on Mount Lebanon, outside of Beirut. With Michel out of town, I was met at the airport by his deputy, Kamal Abdel Nour. After navigating Beirut’s notoriously chaotic traffic, we snaked our way up Mount Lebanon and arrived at Mar Doumit.

I was familiar with the school. Last year, right around Christmas, a group of us had supported a call to raise funds for Mar Doumit, to help equip the school with special needs educational materials. When we arrived for our visit, we were met at the school by its headmistress, Sister Juliette. Sister Juliette gathered about half a dozen of her teachers and we sat down and enjoyed coffee, tea and a most generous spread of Lebanese sweets. A group of students took us to the school, which we toured as they demonstrated the new educational materials, including electronic tablets that had just arrived.

The dedication of the teachers and the youthful zeal of the students were most stirring. The visit also helped us see in a very personal way the impact of CNEWA’s work.

Finally, while we often hear the phrase “boots on the ground,” I saw the CNEWA equivalent of “sandals on the ground” in Sister Juliette — one of many heroic sisters in the region who teach, heal, comfort and serve as good shepherds and keepers of the faith.

Dan Searby and Sister Juliette pause for a picture with some of the students of Mar Doumit.
(photo: CNEWA)

13 July 2017
Greg Kandra

Dr. Deepa Sasidharan parks his motorcycle outside the offices of Calicut Medical College. Learn how growing up in a Catholic-run institution shaped his life in The Secret of Their Success in the current edition of ONE. (photo: Don Duncan)

13 July 2017
Greg Kandra

A member of the Iraqi federal police walks along destroyed buildings from clashes in Mosul 10 July.
(photo: CNS/Thaier Al-Sudani, Reuters)

Video shows Mosul civilians trapped in a fight that’s not over (The New York Times) The civilians crowd together in a narrow alleyway, stranded near house-to-house fighting and surrounded by the stark devastation of western Mosul, where the battle against the Islamic State was supposed to be over. Video taken from a drone on Monday quickly confirmed that the battle to seize Mosul from the Islamic State continues, and that at least 100 civilians were still trapped by the fighting...

In Ukraine, Cardinal Sandri says there is hope for the future (CNA) Shortly after Pope Francis donated money to help those suffering from Ukraine’s ongoing conflict, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri arrived in the country, saying that while pained, he sees hope for the future. In comments to local Catholic media after landing in Ukraine 11 July, Cardinal Sandri recalled that when he made his first trip to the country several years ago, it was because “in this land was born and is growing, a great hope, a great vision of the future for this Christian country...”

Sole Gaza power station turned off due to fuel crisis (Al Jazeera) The Gaza Strip’s only operating power plant was turned off late on Wednesday due to a severe shortage of fuel, leaving the coastal enclave in a complete blackout, local officials said. Officials at the Hamas-run power corporation said they had turned off the last operating turbine at the plant in southern Gaza city...

Yemen’s foreign minister says kidnapped Salesian still alive (CNS) Yemen’s foreign minister told Indian officials that Salesian Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen last year, is still alive, and efforts to trace him continue. reported that, during a visit to New Delhi, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Abduljalil Al-Mekhlafi gave his reassurances in a meeting with the Indian external affairs 10 July, said an Indian government statement. It said Father Uzhunnalil is “alive, and the Yemeni government has been making all efforts to secure his release.” It said al-Mekhlafi “assured all cooperation in this regard...”

Russian hostel reopens for Jerusalem pilgrims (BBC) The Russian government is reopening a hostel for Orthodox pilgrims in Jerusalem in a hospice originally built on the orders of a Romanov grand duke, more than 100 years after it closed...

Tags: Iraq India Ukraine Jerusalem Russia

12 July 2017
Raed Rafei

Aida Yassin, a Lebanese widow, sits with her son, Eli; her daughter-in-law, Lina from Syria; and her grandson, Michael. (photo: Raed Rafei)

Raed Rafei explores the challenges Syrian refugees are facing in Lebanon in the current edition of ONE. Below, he describes one couple he met:

When I arrived to Zahleh on my reporting trip, I expected to hear the same resentful discourse toward Syrian refugees that I hear all over Lebanon. With refugees constituting more than one fourth of the Lebanese population, the public outcry over this irregular situation — one that has been continuing for several years now — is palpable everywhere.

In this pretty Christian town, people I talked to speak mainly of a stagnant economy and say that with refugees willing to earn very little, competition over jobs has been fierce. You see the impact everywhere. As in the central streets of Beirut, Syrian children, sometimes as young as five, beg on the streets. When I stopped for coffee at a random café, the waiter was expectedly Syrian. His story was one I had heard many times over. In Syria, he was a university student but because of the war, he had to abandon his studies and his country.

So when I finally met Eli and Lina, my encounter with the couple was heartwarming. Eli is a struggling Lebanese technician who supports his aging mother, Aida. Lina is a Syrian refugee who fled with her family from the bombing of her hometown in Syria. A couple of years ago, they met at a clothing shop in Zahleh and swiftly fell in love with each other. Today, they are married and have a child, Michael.

It was delightful to see that, despite the surge in racism against the Syrians among the Lebanese, love between people from these two neighboring countries was still possible. Relations between Lebanon and Syria have traditionally been very complicated. During the Lebanese 1975-1990 civil war, Syria was heavily involved in the conflict. People in Zahleh in particular still harbor animus feelings towards Syria because their city was placed under siege for weeks by the Syrian army during that period. It is true that since then, the proximity of Zahleh to the Syrian border has turned Syria into a vital trade partner and calmed the minds. But the conflict in Syria has strangled the city’s economy. And with the influx of Syrian refugees, relations between the two cultures entered a complicated new phase.

When I asked Eli and Lina if they heard disapproving comments from friends or neighbors about their marriage, they simply shrugged their shoulders. To them, their love story came about naturally. On my second visit to their modest home, I saw on the wall an assemblage of their photos in a frame decorated with hearts and the word, love. They looked like a happy young couple in the photos. I asked Lina about the new frame. She smiled and said it was a gift from Eli for Valentine’s Day.

Like all parents, Lina and Eli worry mostly about the future of their child. The brunt of the devastating war in Syria is still present, But, as Lina explained, the only focus today is on how to provide the best education for Michael, who is set to enter school next year.

Life, she said, goes on.

Read more about Hardship and Hospitality in Lebanon in the June 2017 edition of ONE. And meet Eli and Lina in the video below.

12 July 2017
Greg Kandra

Children pray together before their meal at the Little Prince Center in Artashat, Armenia. Learn more about this remarkable center and the work it is doing among the neediest people in the country in ‘This Is the Only Light’ from the June 2017 edition of ONE. (photo: Nazik Armenakyan)

12 July 2017
Greg Kandra

The powerful video above, shot from a drone after Mosul’s liberation from ISIS, shows the devastation of one of Iraq’s largest cities. (video: Radio Free Europe/YouTube)

Iraq celebrates victory over ISIS, but challenges remain (The New York Times) It is a moment for Iraqis to celebrate after nearly nine months of bloody warfare against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. But despite the flaring of hope for a new national unity, the government’s costly victory in Mosul and the questions hanging over its aftermath feel more like the next chapter in the long story of Iraq’s unraveling...

Kurdish leader sponsors referendum on independence (Fides) The referendum convened by the government of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan to sanction their independence from Iraq is a decisive step for the future of that region...

Copts keep the faith (Financial Times) In their 20 centuries of history since Saint Mark brought Christianity to Egypt, Coptic Christians have endured intermittent waves of persecution at the hands of Roman and Muslim rulers. But in modern times, there has been nothing like the scale of the threat posed by Isis, which declared the community in February to be its “primary target and favorite prey...”

Tension and violence reported among radicals in India (Fides) In the past few days, clashes and violent protests of the local Muslim community occurred in the Western Bengal state, after the provocation of a young Hindu extremist who on the social network Facebook had insulted Islam. After days of tension and violence, police managed to restore calm in the towns of Baduria and Basirhat, in the “North 24 Parganas” district...

Catholics and Anglicans share education projects for Syrians (Fides) The episcopal Church of Jerusalem, belonging to the Anglican Communion, signed a partnership protocol with Caritas Jordan on Tuesday, 11 July, to jointly set up a project regarding school assistance for children belonging to Syrian refugee families...

11 July 2017
Michele Chabin

At St. Rachel Day Care Center, day care program director Claudio Graziano provides a caring and nurturing envionment to the children of migrant workers in Jerusalem. (photo: Ilene Perlman)

In the current edition of ONE, Michele Chabin reports on something Found in Translation: the promise of young Christian refugees learning Hebrew in Israel. But that’s just the beginning. Here, she adds some additional thoughts.

You can walk past a building a dozen times, but until you knock on the door and step inside you have no idea what you’ve been missing.

That’s exactly how I felt when CNEWA asked me to write a feature about the St. Rachel Day Care Center in Jerusalem, which is housed in a prefabricated building on the grounds of a monastery I hadn’t known existed.

The Rachel Center, which receives vital funding from CNEWA, cares for the children of some of Israel’s African and Asian migrant workers and asylum-seekers. Were it not for the center, the parents — including several single mothers — would be unable to work and feed their families.

Touring the center, from the babies’ nursery to the playrooms where the older children congregate after school, I was struck by three things: the cleanliness; the high ratio of adults to children; and the fact that everyone, from the sisters to the Catholic lay people, were speaking to the children in Hebrew, the predominant language of Israel.

Why Hebrew? Unless they learn Hebrew, these children — most of them born in Israel — will struggle in school and be unable to integrate into the country they call home.

The fact that — except for the ethnic makeup of the children and the Christian atmosphere — St. Rachel is indistinguishable from any other top-notch Israeli child care center is remarkable given the horrible conditions most migrant/asylum-seeker’s children are forced to endure in makeshift childcare centers that receive neither Israeli government funding nor inspections.

Several years ago, I visited one such center in south Tel Aviv, where most Israel-based migrants and asylum seekers live. It left such a sad impression on me that I remember every detail to this day.

There were dozens of infants and toddlers in the two-room preschool but only three caregivers for up to 80 children. They didn’t have the time to change all of the children’s dirty diapers or clean them if they were sick. Bottles were propped up on towels because there weren’t enough adults to hold all the babies while they ate.

The center had almost no toys, so the TV on the wall was the only thing that kept the children occupied — that, and an occasional group of volunteers who took the older children out to a nearby playground.

At St. Rachel the rooms are immaculate and there are so many wonderful toys and building blocks to play with. There is a library full of beautiful children’s books, plus dance classes and a safe playground with a soft floor to protect against injuries. There is healthy food, music and singing and laughter, all in a Christian setting.

A parent told me that “living in a foreign country, especially without any legal status, can be demoralizing.” But knowing that her baby was being so well cared for at St. Rachel “has given me peace of mind,” she said. “It’s given me the world.”

Read more in the June 2017 edition of ONE.

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